News update, 23 March 2012

23rd Mar 2012

Well, as per usual, I’ve been rather poor at keeping a regular update on my site here but, I’m happy to say, it’s because there has been an incredible whirlwind of activity going on here in NYC over the last couple of months!

Not too long after my last update, I left my internship at Yessian to properly start getting stuck into the music scene here in NYC. Don’t get me wrong: I was terrified to be leaving such a great group of people. And the parting of ways was certainly friendly! It was an amazing place to be, first moving down to NYC from Boston, and my learning experience there was invaluable. The advertising world, even where music is concerned, is a hard-hitting and competitive one. Every day you had to be on the edge of seat, ready to put your all into the task at hand, because getting a hold of that client and a job, is the name of the game. I’m someone who is versatile in a range of situations but, in honesty, there was an element where I didn’t quite feel ready to settle into that world, so that was a part of the reason why I decided to really throw myself into the deep end and become a full-time (freelance) musician and writer.

Was I fearful that everything would come tumbling down, that my NYC experience would end quickly because I would, ultimately, be struggling? Yes. A lot. For the first couple of weeks of being “free”, I was stressing and gearing myself up for a few months of nothing before I would give up and leave.
The thing is, the situation actually woke me up: I was FREE, damn it! This was a good thing, not a bad thing! No more institution (of any kind), no more worrying about schedules set by other people… It was time to go out and have fun, see people, not network but just re-kindle the love and appreciation of friendships and, ultimately, have fun making music.

Since then, the past 2 months have been the best times I’ve had so far here in NYC, because the music has been much more and I can count a number of people who I respect musically and as friends. Here they are, this is what I’ve been up:

Emily Wolf has been making more strides on the NYC scene, with a gig at least once a month at Caffe Vivaldi in the West Village, LIC Bar in Long Island City and we also have an up-coming gig next month at Triad in the Upper West Side. The musicians in this band are all great people, incredible musicians (many from NEC) and just wonderful to hang with!

The Rodrigo Bonelli Group has had a spate of gigs this month (almost one every week), at the Sugar Bar in the Upper West Side, Shrine in Harlem and Somethin’ Jazz Club in Midtown East. Every gig just gets better and better, the high-octane Brazilian Jazz is true work-out to play and exciting to listen to.

I’m keeping the ball rolling as much as possible with Human Equivalent NYC, booking the group for a gig at least once a month at various venues, from LIC Bar, Shrine and venues in the Lower East Side (where the indie and rock bands settle themselves). We’ve been picking up some great press from local listeners (check out Eric Hathaway’s blog for a recent review). The band has gone through various re-arrangements musician-wise, but I’m digging the current line-up, looking to nurture the sound more!

I’ve also had the pleasure of re-connecting with my friend and musical collaborator Noah MacNeil. He moved down to NYC at the beginning of the year and, through some turn-of-events, we have had a couple of gigs performing as the Leah Gough-Cooper:Noah MacNeil Duo, at a truly wonderful restaurant in Queens, La Flor Bakery & Cafe, where we perform three sets of straight-ahead jazz and originals! They’ve invited us back for another Monday night session, so it’s looking to become a regular weekly slot for us: a free meal and small fee are a great deal, as well as the fact that the owners of this Mexican Fusion restaurant are amazingly generous and appreciative!

As well as all the regular bands I perform with, I continue to perform with pop vocalist Meagan Hickman when she rolls into NYC from Chicago and also recently performed with another, Hannah Sumner, at Brooklyn’s Resort World Casino (which was both at once the most amazingly cool and odd experience I’ve had since moving here!). I also head up to Boston twice a month to play in-house with guitarist and singer George Woods, at 6B Lounge, Sunday nights from 8pm, which is a great excuse to see old friends often as well as having a great music-making time!

And last, but certainly not least, during most days I’ve had the most amazing pleasure to work with a great friend and musician, Rich Chwastiak (aka. DJ The WIG), who has been my travel companion into the world of Electronic and Dance music. In all, I’ve garnered a writing and production role alongside him (under the moniker of PANOOC) and we’ve been accumulating a range of dance tracks for both of us to use in performance, separately and together, and also to share with the community out there. We recently remixed a song by Boston-based group Bad Rabbits (‘Can’t Back Down’), which has been getting a healthy amount of hype from social media sites such as Secret Boston, as well as NYC’s music promoters Scotch & Murder Music and Tennessee’s 128 and Up. We’ve produced another three tracks thus far, hoping to have two more completed in time for April. It’s a great experience working with Rich, and one that I hope will continue for many more months to come!

Diverse or what? I’ve been having a blast working with all these great people and have been lucky enough to get a healthy amount of gigs recently (i.e. almost one every night!) and, although you will walk away from one gig or another with little more than tips, it’s always a good feeling to be creating music, having fun and doing exactly what you love!

So, ’til next time, enjoy the Spring!

CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – The List, March 2010

04th Apr 2010

Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent – Future Pop

Dumfries-born, Boston-based saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper’s debut album shares three musicians with drummer Patrick Kunka’s album (reviewed a couple of issues back), and merits equally high praise. While certainly accessible, Gough-Cooper’s intelligently crafted music is way too intense to be a credible future pop, nice though that notion is, but open-minded rock/pop/funk/dance fans may well connect with what is going on here.

The saxophonist’s fluent and inventive work on alto and soprano is supported by responsive and focused ensemble playing and strong soloing from the band, featuring Kunka and pianist Alan Benzie (prominent on Fender Rhodes and electric keyboards as well as piano) alongside guitarist Serghio Jansen and bassist Martin Nessi. George Garzone, a leading figure in the Berklee College faculty, is a special guest on tenor saxophone on ‘Night Surf’.

Kenny Mathieson – The List, 29 March 2010.

CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – Altsounds.com March 2010

28th Mar 2010

With nine instrumentals and an average duration of six minutes, several lead instruments, complex rhythm sections and vague titles that makes you wonder what they were smoking before they made up the set list, calling your album “Future Pop” might be a bit optimistic. However, Leah Gough-Cooper and her band Human Equivalent do have their reasons to be optimistic. Ever since she started out, Gough-Cooper has been hailed as the new jazz sensation and given this album, that’s not a surprise. Entering the world of jazz college only five years ago, when she was sixteen years old, the young saxophonist has been invited to many a jazz festival and played with many a known musician. Drawing inspiration from Frank Zappa and Bjork as much as from Wayne Shorter and Michael Brecker, Gough-Cooper didn’t take the easy way, but it pays out on her band’s album debut.

Though it’s her name featuring on the album cover and Human Equivalent is definitely her band, ‘Future Pop’ is nothing like a solo album. It is, in fact, quite surprising how small a role she’s got on her own album. Opener ‘Future Pop’ sees her collaborating on an exciting piece of jazz psychedelics, with her and guitarist Serghio Jansen firing away the solo’s on the rhythmic sounds of the Rhodes piano. With the calming ‘Only a Matter of Time’ and the lounge music of ‘Leaf Blower’ in between, where pianist Alan Benzie serves as the main contributor, it’s only on ‘Hollywood Ghost Dance’ and ‘Politix Street’ that she’s the one shining out.

Luckily for her, ‘Politix Street’ is the highlight of ‘Future Pop’. ‘Hollywood Ghost Dance’ is an amazing piece of fusion – combining soundtrack, pop, jazz and experimental rock – with drummer Patrick Kunka and guitarist Jansen highlighting the lot. But it’s the nervous breakdown jazz of ‘Politix Street’, once again with Jansen and Benzie having a prominent role, that shows why Human Equivalent is Gough-Cooper’s band. Rather than being egocentric and the main musical contributor, she only plays when necessary and inspired. But rather than just releasing a collection of improvisational pieces, songs like ‘Hollywood Ghost Dance’ and ‘Politix Street’ are quite epic and so much more than the regular jazz composition. Gough-Cooper’s quality doesn’t lie in her talents as saxophonist only, it’s as a songwriter that she really stands out.

In a way, the album title is not as overoptimistic as it sounded at first. After all, before Elvis made the blues rock and roll, jazz was the youngsters wild musical anthem and with so much originality hidden in her songs, Gough-Cooper does give jazz an edge of excitement again. A new jazz revolution taking over the world doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon though, but in her own jazz land, it wouldn’t come as a surprise that she will be seen as an established name any day now.

– Floris Stoter – AltSounds.com March 28, 2010, 02:23 PM

CD endorsement ‘Future Pop’ – Diverse 102.8 FM

06th Mar 2010

This is amongst the best modern jazz I have heard…. I will be playing it on my Monday night programme on Diverse FM, and be recommending it to others. – Tony Catanzaro, DJ and Presenter.

CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – Pipeline Magazine, Spring 2010

06th Mar 2010

Young Scottish saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper has come a long way since she won an international scholarship to Berklee College of Music aged just 16. Still only 20, 2009 found her releasing her second album and playing at the London Jazz Festival. Supported in Human Equivalent by guitar, bass, keys and drums, Future Pop was recorded in Brooklyn, New York. On such a self-composed set it’s good to hear the other members of such an obviously talented band featuring significantly, although of course the main feature is Leah’s athletic technique on sax. Beware, it’s so dynamic it might scramble your brain if modern jazz is not your cup of tea. – Alan Taylor.

CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – Jazzwise Magazine, Issue 138, Feb 2010

27th Jan 2010

Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent ‘Future Pop’ (three stars)
Leah Gough-Cooper (as,ss), Serghio Jansen (g), Alan Benzie (p, Rhodes, kys), Martin Nessi (b) and Patrick Kunka (dr)

A Scottish band made up of former Berklee students and young award winning Scottish jazz musicians is fronted by a saxophonist-composer barely out of her teens. This makes the level of musicianship on this CD all the more astonishing. Style-wise it’s largely jazz-rock fusion given a vigorous makeover. Because it’s a sub-genre of jazz in which a very high level of notes and musicianship is essential it’s no surprise it has its devotees in the rehearsal corridors of Berklee – for evidence listen to Hiromi’s band. Yet, Gough-Cooper’s lyrical alto sax seems also to have absorbed M-Base-type odd metered cryptic patterns and some of the impressive drummer’s bustling grooves certainly demonstrate a line through to drum and bass and hip hop. Nevertheless Future Pop – not sure what that’s meant to say about it – inherits more directly from the world of Return to Forever, the keyboard impressionism of Weather Report, with some 1980s Marcus Miller-style funk thrown in. It’s hardly the most original of causes, but the band manages to attain a high quality of musicianship without sacrificing any of their youthful high spirits. Selwyn Harris


Review of Human Equivalent: EAST, Chiayi, Taiwan

06th Jan 2010

公告單位 文化局 上一頁

新聞標題 開春好聲響,匯聚世界各國好樂手,共響嘉義國際管樂 公告日期:2010/1/1
新聞內容好的節慶絕對不會孤單,總能引起四方共鳴。今年邁向第十八屆的嘉義市國際管樂節,有來自美國、日本、泰國、新加坡、內蒙古等五國10隊的國外樂團前來共襄盛舉。其中,來自美國的美國類人樂團Human Equivalent Band,更是為了參與今年的嘉義市國際管樂節特別號召來七位自美國、蘇格蘭、南美洲的阿魯巴及智利等四個國家的管樂傑出好手,所組成的一個精兵管樂團。嘉義管樂節跨海來台在1/1音樂廳,以及1/2中正公園的二場精采演出,讓嘉義市民欣賞到絕佳的管樂美聲。

2007年夏天,美國類人樂團Human Equivalent Band由目前就讀Berklee College of Music(美國波士頓的音樂學院)身懷音樂絕技的高材生所組成的樂團。薩克斯風樂手首兼作曲家的Leah Gough-Cooper歷經童年時期爵士、搖滾、嘻哈、放克的淬練,在進入美國波士頓的音樂學院兩年後,即開始為樂團創作,直到現在,他仍不斷挑戰各團員的演奏技能,以及自我的音樂創作極限。

「類人」樂團演奏的風格,既含括沙發音樂及放克的元素,同時也兼有成熟的扎帕風(Zappa),團員們洋溢的音樂才華,在他們百分百的演奏默契中充分地流露。而類人樂團的演奏風格,也受到不同演奏風格的音樂家含括Herbie Hancock到The Weather Report,以及前衛派的Frank Zappa所影響,再經過團員們的吸收並重新創作詮釋後,成為美國類人樂團自身獨樹一格的演出新風格。樂團在探尋爵士樂的路上,以一種激進兼具實驗性的方式,作為他們詮釋心中音樂風貌的表演形式,在創新與顛覆的音樂演出中,也不失對傳統音樂的堅持與喜愛。

原為五部爵士樂團,Human Equivalent:EAST則是特別為嘉義國際管樂節組成的樂團,每個團員都曾與爵士大師如Terri Lyne Carrington,Fred Wesley,Randal Corsen及Barry Eastmond合演過,樂手來自世界各地:蘇格蘭的薩克斯風樂手Leah Gough-Cooper,來自南美洲自治國阿魯巴的電吉他手Serghio Jansen,以及智利的貝斯手Martin Nessi,各個樂手都有著令人拍手叫絕的拿手演奏本領。

鼓手Massimo Buonanno (曾與Freda Goodlet 及 John Mayer合作)、鋼琴手Chad Selph,小號Vivek Patel (Alex Brown, Paquito DRivera), 打擊樂Arturo Pena (Orquestra Bacharengue)。



Human Equivalent: EAST announcement

04th Jan 2010

好的節慶絕對不會孤單,總能引起四方共鳴。今年邁向第十八屆的嘉義市國際管樂節,有來自美國、日本、 泰國、新加坡、內蒙古等五國10隊的國外樂團前來共襄盛舉。其中,來自美國的美國類人樂團Human Equivalent Band,更是為了參與今年的嘉義市國際管樂節特別號召來七位自美國、蘇格蘭、南美洲的阿魯巴及智利等四個國家的管樂傑出好手,所組成的一個精兵管樂團。 嘉義管樂節跨海來台在1/1音樂廳,以及1/2中正公園的二場精采演出,讓嘉義市民欣賞到絕佳的管樂美聲。

2007年夏天,美國類人樂團 Human Equivalent Band由目前就讀Berklee College of Music(美國波士頓的音樂學院)身懷音樂絕技的高材生所組成的樂團。薩克斯風樂手首兼作曲家的Leah Gough-Cooper歷經童年時期爵士、搖滾、嘻哈、放克的淬練,在進入美國波士頓的音樂學院兩年後,即開始為樂團創作,直到現在,他仍不斷挑戰各團 員的演奏技能,以及自我的音樂創作極限。

「類人」樂團演奏的風格,既含括沙發音樂及放克的元素,同時也兼有成熟的扎帕風(Zappa), 團員們洋溢的音樂才華,在他們百分百的演奏默契中充分地流露。而類人樂團的演奏風格,也受到不同演奏風格的音樂家含括Herbie Hancock到The Weather Report,以及前衛派的Frank Zappa所影響,再經過團員們的吸收並重新創作詮釋後,成為美國類人樂團自身獨樹一格的演出新風格。樂團在探尋爵士樂的路上,以一種激進兼具實驗性的方 式,作為他們詮釋心中音樂風貌的表演形式,在創新與顛覆的音樂演出中,也不失對傳統音樂的堅持與喜愛。

原為五部爵士樂團,Human Equivalent:EAST則是特別為嘉義國際管樂節組成的樂團,每個團員都曾與爵士大師如Terri Lyne Carrington,Fred Wesley,Randal Corsen及Barry Eastmond合演過,樂手來自世界各地:蘇格蘭的薩克斯風樂手Leah Gough-Cooper,來自南美洲自治國阿魯巴的電吉他手Serghio Jansen,以及智利的貝斯手Martin Nessi,各個樂手都有著令人拍手叫絕的拿手演奏本領。

鼓手Massimo Buonanno (曾與Freda Goodlet 及 John Mayer合作)、鋼琴手Chad Selph,小號Vivek Patel (Alex Brown, Paquito DRivera), 打擊樂Arturo Pena (Orquestra Bacharengue)。



Review from THE HERALD

26th Aug 2008

Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent/N.Y. Jazz Orchestra of Scotland
26 August 2008

BARELY a week passes, it seems, without yet another teenage Scottish jazz musician being mentioned in dispatches, usually from a session in Edinburgh’s Jazz Bar, for having swinging and improvising credentials beyond his or her years. And if this concert is any guide, that happy situation looks set to continue.

The National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland, heard here in both nonet and full company editions, continues to forge ahead, producing tight, professional ensemble work across a stylistic range incorporating big-band favourites and more adventurous pieces.

Among those making strong individual contributions were the Young Scottish Jazz Musicians 2007 and 2008 – respectively the bright, energetic Alan Benzie (piano) and the assured, thoughtful tenor saxophonist Joe Wright – although their successor could easily have been present on the bandstand, too.

Saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper, from Dumfries, has already moved on from youth level to study at Berklee, where she’s developing not just her own lithe alto style but a fine line in idiosyncratic compositions, too. Her band are collectively alive to any time signature quirks or twists in the blues form and all solo with confidence and purpose, not least guitarist Ant Law, whose two-handed fretboard manoeuvres on the stylishly grooving Future Pop effected an almost uniform raising of audience eyebrows.

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Review from THE SCOTSMAN

18th Sep 2007

A wee nip of this well-matured island festival leaves a warm afterglow

Published Date: 18 September 2007



THE combination of a scenic, sea-girt setting – ringed by seven single-malt distilleries – with a discerning selection of Scottish and international artists has proved a winning one for the Black Bottle Islay Jazz Festival, the ninth annual outing of which at the weekend drew its now-customary crowd of loyal regulars, as well as numerous first-timers from the island and elsewhere.

There’s something about leaving the mainland behind that seems peculiarly conducive to the festival experience, of whatever musical hue, and that sense of distance from daily concerns is wonderfully easy to come by on Islay, with the drives between concerts parading its ever-changing panoramas of land and water, sunlight and shadow. The particular flavour of each show is heightened by the diversity of local venues, from cosy village halls to working distillery sheds, the 18th-century former laird’s house to the new Gaelic college.

One-off shows during the weekend included something of a damp squib late on Friday from Edinburgh-based jazz/funk/hip-hop crew Live Sciences, whose lumbering, repetitious riffs were unleavened by stilted, frequently unintelligible rapping and largely mediocre solos. By contrast, up’n’coming Dumfriesshire-born saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper, currently studying at the prestigious Berklee College in Boston, enhanced her burgeoning reputation with Saturday’s arrestingly assured and sophisticated set in Port Ellen, her authoritative, atmospheric playing and inventive original compositions complemented by excellent work from her three-piece band, in particular some sparkling interplay between guitar and electric bass.

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  1. MP3: Future Pop ('Future Pop')
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  2. MP3: Leaf Blower ('Future Pop')
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  3. MP3: On the Other Side
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  4. MP3: From the Ash (live at Bar East)
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